Report slams agency over passport fiasco



Mike Simons

The Passport Agency and its IT partner Siemens Business Systems have been savaged in a new Public Accounts Committee report...



Mike Simons

The Passport Agency and its IT partner Siemens Business Systems have been savaged in a new Public Accounts Committee report on last summer's passport delays.

Problems with the implementation of a new IT system resulted in a backlog of 565,000 passports, delays of up to 50 days and queues outside Passport Agency offices.

David Davis, chairman of the Public Accounts Committee, said, "The implementation of this major change was poorly planned and badly handled. We saw fiasco turn to farce as the summer progressed last year."

He said the agency's inability to provide an adequate service "represented a deplorable departure from the high standards of the service".

Key points highlighted by the committee include:

  • A four-month delay before the start of testing the new system, and testing its impact on productivity was not completed before it went live in late 1998

  • The agency launched the new system in its largest offices, Liverpool and Newport, which accounted for half its normal processing capacity

  • Contingency planning was wholly inadequate, despite the Passport Agency's experience of the flawed roll-out of its previous computer system in 1989.

    The committee highlighted the Passport Agency's failure to transfer risk to its private sector partner Siemens Business Systems.

    The contract allowed Siemens to take responsibility for the risk associated with design and delivery of the system. However, the risk associated with business continuity remained with the Passport Agency. As a result the agency incurred extra costs of £12.6m, with Siemens paying just £2.45m, spread over several years.

  • Read more on IT risk management

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